Managing a complex project can be a daunting task. Many consulting firms concentrate a lot on the ‘theory’ of project management and cookie-cutter methodologies versus real and practical approaches to implementing project management that works, borne from hard won experience.
Here at Core Catalysts, we follow eight tried and true ‘golden rules’ to help our clients achieve success managing their projects. They are:
Strong project sponsorship is one of the most important key successes. You must ensure that you have a sponsor that understands the business, knows the importance of the project for the business, and will provide the right level and kinds of support. The sponsor must also have the right level of influence in the business and be able to provide the necessary resources to ensure project success.
Agreeing on clear targets with the project sponsor and other key stakeholders is of utmost importance. Solid analytics will help to confirm that any targets are achievable, and time spent on alignment to ensure every stakeholder agrees on the goals and objectives of the project is seldom a waste.
Confirming the actual scope of the project upfront saves a lot of pain later in the process … scope creep and scope shift have thrown many a wrench to the best laid project management plans. Having a defined scope doesn’t mean that scope can’t change, it just enables any future scope changes can be managed successfully.
Wherever possible, we try and keep the scope to a minimum. We break up large projects into more manageable pieces to allow us to deliver tangible benefits at regular intervals, rather than a final project after a number of years.
For project management success, you must identify the right kind and amount of resources (people, time, money etc.) Highlighting gaps in capabilities and resources is required to ensure success. Confirming the key project team and budgeted resources as early as possible and communicating this to all stakeholders, to ensure their availability at the right times, is critical. Having contingency plans of additional resources that can assist you in specific situations is also helpful.
Smart planning is one of the most critical success factors in any project, as the project deliverables will be measured against this plan. We have found that the best method to do this is to only do detailed planning for the next three months, and there after only at a high level. Over-planning, either too far out or to a too detailed level of task granularity at the outset of a project seldom works well – your stakeholders will hold you to these plans while the typical learning curve at the start of a project is steep.
Solid processes are the ‘meat and potatoes’ that ensure successful project management. Good project management processes ensure that everyone working on the project adheres to the same standards and know exactly what to do, when, and where. Ensuring well documented and adhered to processes and governance for items such as time management, cost management, change management, and risk and issue management, and that these processes are communicated to all stakeholders and people on the project team, will create an environment based on fact versus emotion, and make decision making and stakeholder management far easier.
Smart project planning is further complimented by great project tracking. Keeping clear tabs on project progress allows any stakeholder at any time to see what the status of the project is. Creating well-functioning dashboards for the different levels of stakeholders in the project is one of the best project management tools you can have, be it high level summaries for the project Steering Committee or a more detailed dashboards for the team members on the ground.
The final golden rule for project management success is project reporting. Make sure the detail of project reporting to the various stakeholders is agreed up front, as well as the time lines in which such reporting will be provided, i.e. monthly to the Steering Committee and weekly to the active team members. Getting everyone into a good reporting ‘cadence’ drives but-in and long-term engagement.
How many of the golden rules do you follow? How did you score? Give yourself one point for each golden rule you follow.
– Mark Jacobs, Client Service & Delivery